|CHICAGO RIVER: Pretty on postcards, Repulsive in person|
I forget how old I was exactly (it might have been 7), but I had just got a cheap camera as a gift. So when the family took a trip to the Museum of Science and Industry, I felt the need to take it along.
I RECALL BEING on an upper level of the museum, looking down at that giant layout of a model railroad that I’m sure all of us locals saw at one point or another in our lives. I wanted to take pictures of the trains from above.
But I got clumsy, lost my grip, and saw my new camera fall a couple of floors.
Following a brief angry blast from my father, he then went down and managed to get the camera – which surprisingly enough, was not broken. To this day, I still have the camera and it still functions. Or at least it did the last time I tried to use it many years ago.
Unfortunately, an early Monday incident had a much less satisfying ending.
FOR IT SEEMS a man was walking along the river when he lost his grip on the cellphone he was using to take pictures of the ice-covered river. It fell into the river, although based on the reports I have read, it seems like it floated on the water’s surface, which is why the man appears to have thought he could just reach into the river and grab it back.
|River's St. Patrick's Day shade of green ...|
But that is where any resemblance from my moment of clumsiness and this man’s moment of misery comes to an end.
For he slipped and fell into the river.
The woman and another man who were with him, all of whom were from Minnesota and were on their way to New Jersey, felt heroic and dived into the river to try to retrieve him.
|... and its usual sickly green shade|
IT ENDED BADLY. The body of the cellphone-less man was recovered, although he was pronounced dead at 3:14 a.m. at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The woman’s body has yet to be found (my police reporter memories make me think she'll turn up in the spring when the ice thaws out), while the other man who tried to do a rescue was at Presence St. Joseph Hospital.
Alive on Monday morning, albeit in critical condition.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the deceased man trying to retrieve his telephone was from St. Paul, Minn. It would make sense to think that all three of them were tourists visiting Chicago.
It is very clear to anybody who isn’t a native Chicagoan that they weren’t locals.
FOR ANYBODY WHO was from around here never would have dived into the Chicago River.
We may joke about how it’s a waste to dye the river green for St. Patrick’s Day because the water has a natural green (albeit sickly) color to it. From all the years of waste that got dumped into the river that once was officially classified as “toxic,” but is now merely “polluted.”
Exposure to the water for even a few minutes (which is how long it took for the Police Department’s Marine Unit to recover the men from the river) is long enough to cause severe illness.
Even if that one man survives, he’s probably going to have some lingering problems to his health as a result of his brief “swim” in the river.
I CAN’T THINK of anyone local who would risk that much to get a cellphone back. And I write that knowing full well how much of a pain in the behind it can be to switch cellphones if you don’t have your old phone to retrieve data from. If, as a kid, I had dropped my camera into the river, I never would have expected my father to try to retrieve it.
It’s why I sometimes sarcastically quip that when I die, I’d like to be cremated and have my earthly remains dumped into the Chicago River.
I can’t think of any fate that would more repulse a native Chicagoan than that. Let’s hope the woman’s body is ultimately found so that she doesn’t suffer that fate.